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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #022

Editorial

This issue is devoted entirely to my walk in the Tarkine Wilderness.

The walk was organised by the World Wildlife Fund (now World Wide Fund for Nature I believe) as a way to get some of Tasmania's best landscape photographers, videographers, and writers, into the Tarkine, with a view to producing a book on the area.

Yes I know I'm not Tasmanian, but they invited me anyway.

For two weeks we slogged in the rain and mud, but it was worth every minute.

I made some very good photos, and I'm sure the others did as well.

Time will tell if I get any photos in the book, but I had a great time, and met or re-met some of Australia's best photographers.

That this lifestyle has allowed me to just change plans and go on such an event is more than enough reason to hit the road.

Maybe the next time I'll see you there.

 

 

Sat 25 Oct 2003

It's up early and into some breakfast. At 7 we're both ready and we load our gear into Glen's car.

My pack still seems very heavy, oh well.

The walk we are embarking on has been organised to get several photographers and writers into the Tarkine Wilderness, with a view to producing a book from the results.

The book is sponsored by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), and it is hoped that it will help to protect this vast and (almost) pristine wilderness area.

The schedule calls for an 8AM departure from the offices of Tiger Trails, a local eco tourism company.


Visit the Tiger Trails (now Tarkine Trails) web site.

We arrive at about 7:30 but no other photographers have arrived, and the bus isn't loaded. It's clear that we'll still be here long after eight.


Darvis (one of the TT guides) plays guitar while we wait for everything/one to be ready

Eventually four photographers pile into the minibus and we head off. CA (one of the writers) is following in her car, and several other photographers, writers and cameramen will join us over the two-week period.

We drive for what seems like hours, mostly because it is hours. After a quick lunch at Queenstown we continue, arriving at the Pieman River in the mid-afternoon, with a long way to go yet.

We cross the river on the Fatman barge and continue along the dirt road


The Fatman barge, the only way across the Pieman River at Corinna. It has a 6.5 tonne limit, so don't try this with your large motorhome.


A somewhat tongue-in-cheek sign on the Corinna side of the river.


Corinna consists of about six buildings, this is one of them.

Before long we pull over to the trail head. It's a "short" walk from here to the campsite on the banks of the Savage River.

The trip is fully catered, so there's food and utensils to carry, these we divvy up between us. I'm not that happy about this as I'm fully self contained with food, stove etc., mostly because I'm a fussy bugger and don't trust that Tiger Trails will supply food that I'm happy with (as it turned out I needn't have bothered, the TT guys did a fine job of accommodating various dietary requirements).

So, as I said, we divide the extra gear between us, some in shopping bags and some in cardboard boxes. Now it's very "not on" to carry stuff like this when bushwalking, but Jarrah (our other TT guide) says it's only a quarter of an hour to the camp, along a trail.

The quarter hour turns into half an hour, and then a full hour, and there's still no camp in sight.

My shopping bag becomes shredded by the sword grass, leaving a trail of "Curried Tuna in Dill Water" satchels for my companions to follow.

Two hours later, having bashed through the scrub, sword grass, and a steep slippery "track", the leaders (including me I'm happy to say) reach the river. It will be another hour before the tail-end-Charlies arrive


Several of the group talk over dinner.


CA's tent.


The communal tarp. Later, at the next camp, I christened it the 'Tarp Mahal'.


A fern rests on the wet tarp

After dinner and some conversation we hit the sack. I lay on my Thermarest wondering what the hell I'm doing here. Surely it's not worth it for a few photos.

Sun 26 Oct

Everyone is going up to the "Natural Arch" today, everyone except me that is. I am particularly put off by the stories of the horizontal scrub (small pliable trees that grow horizontally, and that have to be climbed over, or crawled under, making the going very difficult and slow) between here and the arch, but also I no longer confuse bushwalking with photography.

I think there's plenty to photograph around here, why slog my guts out all day to photograph the same thing as everyone else?

The others leave and I have the area to myself. During the day I make a photo that I think is one of my best ever.


This photo of a tiny mushroom has since won a runner-up position in the ANZANG nature photography awards. (Published in the Tarkine book)


Fern fronds and fiddles, four of the other photos I made during the day.

At lunchtime, as I sit with my back on a stump enjoying a cup of soup, a huge slug drops from the sky and lands, SPLAT, on my hand. Half an inch to the right and he would have been swimming with the croutons in the Continental Hearty Beef.

That's one lucky slug.

I carefully lift him from my hand and put him on a leaf.

At around five the others return, tired but happy with the day's shooting. Apparently the horizontal scrub was bad, CA comments, with a straight face, that it was her first "horizontal experience". As she's forty-something with a teenage daughter, few of us actually believe that


The group return from the Natural Arch. There is a conveniently placed tree over the river at this point. However it was about two metres short, so Jarrah found another log to make up the difference

Mon 27 Oct

Once again my companions are heading off into the scrub in search of photos. And once again I elect to search nearer to home.


I have another busy day

I spend a large part of the day just sitting on a bend in the river near the camp. It's such a peaceful spot, and with no people around the silence is nearly absolute, just broken by the sound of river on rock, and breeze on branch.


Branches overhang the bend in the Savage River.


Sitting on a bend in the Savage River. Note the colour of the water, it's heavily tannin stained, a common feature on the Tasmanian west coast

Oh, and the crash of a huge tree limb as it is shed from its host. Despite the devastation caused, it takes me a while to find it, mostly because I assume that the sound I heard was that of an entire tree, and therefore I search further afield at first.

In fact the branch is quite near to our camp.

What was that Zen riddle?, if a branch falls from a tree and there's no photographer to record the event, did it really happen?

Over the last two days I've taken two or three extremely good photos and several good ones, and I haven't ventured more than 50 metres from the camp (except while searching for the fallen tree).

I consider that to be a very successful couple of days.

Tue 28 Oct

We rise to a dense fog. While breaking our fast CA asks of anyone got any "mist" shots. "Yeah I missed a lot" replies Glen.

I've been dreading the walk out from this camp, it was hard work on the way in, and that was down hill. Still it has to be done.

We slog through the forest and up the hills. It's very muddy, and many footsteps are half wasted as the foot slides almost back to its previous position.

Still, after what seems like a relatively short period we are at the top and walking along the FWD trail to the bus.

We'll be camping in the forest along the "Road to Nowhere" tonight but meanwhile we drive along the infamous road in search of more photos.


We stop on the "Road to Nowhere" for a photo op.


The actual "Road to Nowhere".


Dark mass of 'The Longback' contrasts with a wispy cloud

The so-called Road to Nowhere (or the Western Explorer as I think it's officially known) was put in by the government ostensibly to open the area for tourism. Many people however believe that it's prime purpose it to facilitate logging in the area.

It was very contentious when built, and dubbed the Road to Nowhere by those opposed to it's construction.

About an hour before sunset Loic and I are dropped off near a promising-looking rocky outcrop. The view is nice and we both think that there is some potential, especially as the magic hour approaches.

The outcrop is very exposed, and there's a freezing wind, but I can't add any clothing because our packs have been left in the trailer, back near tonight's campsite.


Loic sets up his camera on top of a rock outcrop

Loic has his outer wind proof gear so he's OK, but I decide to wait in the on the lee side of the outcrop.

As it turns out there's quite a nice photo to be had from there as the sun lowers.


The rock outcrop

Before long the storm clouds build up over the nearby mountains, and the sun disappears behind them. We hang around in the hope that it will briefly return through a hole in the clouds, but no luck.


The views from the rock outcrop as the sun sets.


The gathering storm clouds. (Published in the Tarkine book)

The plan was for us to be picked up at 8PM, but the light's gone at 7:30, so we start walking to keep warm.

It gets darker and colder, but after an hour we see the welcome sight of approaching headlights. We pile into the vehicle and return to the spot where we left the trailer earlier.

The camp is a few hundred metres into the scrub from here and we make our way through trees in the darkness, initially with Jarrah's dead reckoning, then homing in on the other's headlamps.

I pitch my tent on the only half-decent spot I can find in the darkness, get some warm clothing on, and join the others for a late dinner.

Wed 29 Oct

It's throwing it down and I'm not too inclined to get out of bed, but then there's places to go and things to photograph.

While eating breakfast we huddle around the stove as if that would provide some warmth. Then, during a brief lull in the rain, we pack up our sodden tents and make our way back to the bus.


We stand around drinking coffee in the rain. Photo by Glen Turvey

We're heading back to Corinna, and from there down the Pieman River to the heads, where we'll spend a few days photographing the coast.

After lunch we wait for Craig the boatman. He's a local fisherman who's been contracted to carry us down the river.

After much ado on the satellite phone with the National Parks office (something about licences and life jackets) we're ready to go.

I'm on the first boat, and as I approach I see Craig inspecting the vessel's floor. "Looks like the leak's fixed" he says, his tone more that of a question than a statement. "I had some Germans in here last week and there was all these little fountains in the bottom".

Oh dear, and it's 25 kilometres to the heads.

Simon, Dave and myself pile in and we head off. Dave is a well-known cameraman and he asks Simon and myself to sit in the front as camera fodder.


Dave sits precariously in the boat's gunwale. That's over $100,000 worth of camera there

These cameramen carry a lot of weight. Dave's tripod (the dark one lying at the bottom of the above photo) weighs 10kg, that's about the same as all my camera equipment, including tripod. And then there's that huge camera, and the spare batteries...these guys do it even tougher than we still photographers do.

Craig's an interesting fellow, he looks like a real west-coast type, simple and rough, but there's a good mind behind that exterior.

Over the next few days we get to know him quite well, and he becomes the source of many good comments. Like the time he was speeding in his boat in the dark, with almost zero visibility. "I couldn't see a thing in front of me", he says, "but I kept going flat out anyway".

He stops and ponders what he'd just said, "Rather like life", he adds.

Craig's father's vocation can best be described as "professional abalone poacher". The authorities are pretty tough on poaching around here, and his dad has been packed off to jail on several occasions.

He doesn't mind though, even enjoys it. "He gets a new pair of boots and a chance to catch up with the relatives" says Craig.

As we make our way down the river it starts to rain again (now there's a surprise), this time it also hails. We're nearing the heads as well, so the swell is increasing, and the boat is bashing through the waves.

Through all this Craig sits stoically, with bare hands exposed to the elements, and eyes squinting. I would have had cramps in my hands in that cold.

"Welcome to the west coast" he says.


Craig doesn't move from this position for the entire trip. Here we can see the spray quite well but it's also hailing

As we reach the heads Dave asks if we can set up our cameras so he can get some footage. We've no sooner agreed when his batteries run out. So much for our 15 minutes of fame in his video.

Dave returns to Corinna with Craig, leaving just Simon and me.

Simon is going solo for a couple of days and he sets off up the coast, leaving just me.

The sun has made an appearance, so, with nothing to do for at least a couple of hours until the boat returns, and not knowing where the campsite will be, I decide to dry out my tent.


Drying my tent next to a shack on the side of the river

After about half an hour I think the tent is dry enough, and anyway I'm pushing my luck, after 30 minutes of sun it must be about due to rain.

If I knew where we were camping I could just set up the tent properly, but I don't, and so I pack it back into it's bag.

Just as I do so it starts to rain.

I sit under a tree and wait for the boat.


The boat returns with the next batch of passengers

Eventually it returns and I walk down to the river to help unload. Darvis, one of our guides, is on board and he does know where we're going to camp. Right where I've been sitting for three hours.

We set up our tents then make a fire behind a corrugated iron wind break next to the shack.

The fire works well, but the smoke is trapped under the tarpaulin (the Tarp Mahal as I christened it) in the low pressure area behind the wind break.

The smoke is so bad we can barely see through the tears, actually finding it a relief to peel the onions.

Eventually we can't stand it any longer and quench the fire, it's either that, or stand outside the tarp in the rain all night.

Thu 30 Oct

We leave camp fairly early and walk up the coast. The day is just fantastic, of course it rains periodically, but the intervening periods are sunny, and the changes make for very interesting light.


Pigface flower near our Rupert Point lunch spot

After lunch we split up and generally make our own way back down the coast to the camp.


Loic and Darvis chat while waiting out a rain squall.


Bull kelp. This stuff is so tough you could retread your tyres with it.


Loic stands on a cliff overlooking a tannin-stained pool

Both Glen and Darvis are accomplished guitar players, and the evening is largely spent with them trying to remember the chords to songs, and the rest of us trying to remember the words.

People slowly trickle off to bed, leaving just Ralph, myself and Darvis. Darvis plays one of his own compositions, it's a beautiful song, and a fitting end to a great day.

Fri 31 Oct

The light is fairly ordinary this morning so I hang around the camp talking with members of the group. We've made another fire, this time in the open, and it's nice to stand around it and chew the fat with the writers and other photographers.

After lunch things improve in the light department, so I walk back up the coast.


Impressive slanting rock formations.


Dead trees in a drying swamp.


Dying tadpoles in the swamp (I poured the contents of my water bottle over them after I took the shot).


Footprints of three mammals in the mud.


Wave crashes over a rock on a beach near Rupert Point.


I made the above photo of a wave by getting very close to the action. A little too close as it happens. This photo was taken by accident as I dried the camera and cleaned the lens.


Closeup of the patterns in the rock. (Published in the Tarkine book)


Pigface on a cliff overlooking the coastline.


Pebble beach in the rain.


Tidal pools.


Wombat's backside.


Here's a better photo of the wombat. (Published in the Tarkine book)

As I near the camp, still a couple of hundred yards away, I smell a wet fire. Now why would that be? the fire would easily have withstood the rain during the day.

I emerge from the bush to find an empty camp, and Craig packing his tent. "We've had to move across the river", he says, "The shack owner has heard we're camping here, she's not happy and on her way down".

Other shack owners from across the river had warned us, it seems that the owner is a very large woman with whom we don't want to argue.

I ram all my belongings into my pack and climb into the boat. Minutes later I alight onto the southern bank of the river, and make my way to the new campsite.

It's a great spot, sheltered from the wind, with a long-drop toilet.

I quickly dub the camp "The Southbank Hilton". The name sticks for a while, but soon changes to "Camp Leech" as most of us discover the tiny bloodsuckers on various parts of our anatomy.

Jarrah is particularly vigilant as he is violently allergic to leeches. He carries adrenaline and an EPIRB (emergency beacon that will call the search & rescue people) and will need both if bitten.

I comment that this is a bummer of an affliction for a person who makes a living as a bushwalking guide in the Tarkine Wilderness.

Sat 1 Nov

The writers leave today. It's been interesting to see how they work, and they in turn have been studying the photographer's methods.

In fact they seemed more interested in us than the Tarkine.

We'll particularly miss CA as she's been with us from the start.

Today we will spend time further south, at Conical Rocks. After breakfast we make our way down the beach, sometimes two or three together, sometimes individually, according to what photos we see, and who we bump into.

On the south side of the river, in a tributary to the Pieman, is a huge log jam. Thousands of massive logs so tightly packed that it's quite easy to cross the creek without our feet even approaching the water.


Darvis and Jarrah chat near one of the huge log jams

As I approach the headland known as Conical Rocks I hear the sound of a small stationary motor. I follow the sound to find a quad bike with a compressor strapped to the rack.


A quad bike with compressor. These bikes are a common form of transport on the rough tracks around here

Leading away from the compressor, over the rocks and towards the ocean, is an air line. I follow it and find some abalone divers. Well actually I find the support crew, the diver is below, presumably at the end of the bright yellow line I see disappearing into the sea.


The ab diver's supporters pull the air line in as he surfaces

The diver emerges from the rough seas with his catch in a bag. I take the bag to higher ground while his companions help him out of the water.

The bag is quite heavy and I'm thinking that he must have a good catch.


The diver is out of the water and about to check his catch

The poor fellow has been under water for an hour and a half, and it's rough in there. Still with a bag that heavy I guess it's been worth it.

Wrong, after measuring the crayfish he determines that they must go back. They're right on the limit, and the fishery inspectors are very strict around here.


Only nine abalone and no crayfish, after an hour and a half in the rough seas

I leave the divers and move on to the Conical Rocks, just a few hundred yards away.


A conical rock island and colourful rocks

This is a very spectacular place, with little grassy tarns, massive granite boulders, and of course, the actual conical rocks themselves.


Huge boulders, grassy tarns and conical rocks.


Closeup of some wee plants. (Published in the Tarkine book)


A wave hitting the rocks. (Published in the Tarkine book)


This huge log has been washed way up onto the rocks by a storm

The afternoon is spent exploring the coastline.

Towards evening Glen, Simon and I find ourselves on top of the tallest conical rock. It's windy and cold and the light's failing, so Simon decides to return to camp.

Glen and I feel there's still a photo or two left in the day, so we stay on top of the rock.

We do get another couple of photos, but after an hour or so we also call it a day.

Sun 2 Nov

Some of the group leave early on the boat this morning, the rest will follow in a couple of hours.

I'm in the following group and therefore get to sleep in. The weather gives us a break to pack up camp which makes a nice change.

There really should be two following groups, but Craig decides that he can take all of us, if he goes slow.

At around ten the four of us climb into Craig's boat, and we settle in for what should be a slow and relatively boring trip.

The weather is still quite warm and I start to nod off.

BANG!

What the hell was that?

We've hit a submerged log. Craig lifts the motor to inspect the prop. It's OK, which is good, because the prospect of rowing the remaining 15 kilometres upstream doesn't thrill any of us. To disembark and walk through this jungle would be even worse.

I'm nice and awake now. Before long we turn into the Donaldson River, a brief detour to allow Darvis to scout for potential future campsites.

The Pieman is big and wide, the Donaldson is not. As we slowly motor up the river it closes in, with the rainforest hanging right over the snag-ridden water.

It's fantastic, and just like a scene from the movie "Apocalypse Now". I half expect to see a downed B52 or helicopter hanging from the trees.


Rainforest overhangs the Donaldson River.

We stop a few times while Darvis explores some likely campsites, then make our way back down river.

Realising that I only have one frame left in the camera I take a photograph of the river and rewind the film. This is an old trick used to ensure that you have film in the camera if something interesting happens. However it's started raining again, so, rather that expose the camera's internals to the weather, I leave the old film in the camera.

What can happen on this quite river?

As we approach the junction with the Pieman, a Wedgetailed eagle flies from the forest.

Wow! one of us exclaims.

Then another one emerges from the trees.

Oh wow!

Then a third one follows.

No more exclamations, we're all scrambling for cameras. I of course have a camera at hand, but it's not loaded. I fumble with the film, torn between watching the eagles, and preparing my camera to photograph them.

As we watch they fight. One is obviously being set upon by the other two, it's quite outmatched, and before long is tumbling towards the river.

It lands about 50 metres from our boat and floats there, presumably wondering what the heck to do next.

I have that horrible feeling that it may be badly hurt, and that we will either have to try to rescue it (not all that likely, even an injured Wedgie would tear any would-be rescuer to shreds) or put it out of it's misery with an oar.

Fortunately the eagle puts those thoughts to rest by striking out for the shore as our boat approaches. An action that I'm sure saved it's life, it's cold in this water, and if it had stayed in the river it would shortly find itself in the much rougher waters of the Pieman. And from there, if it survived, in the ocean.

There's few things more regal than an eagle soaring on the wind, master of it's domain, and beholden to nothing.

Conversely there's few things sadder than a sodden eagle trying to breaststroke. What a sorry sight. Still, it can swim, and does make it to the shore, climbing onto the bank and then onto a branch.

By this time of course the boat is in a state of total upheaval. Packs have been opened and the contents strewn with abandon as we searched for cameras and lenses.

I've finally reload my camera and find myself lying across backpacks, and something quite hard, trying to stabilise my camera on the boat's side.


Wedge tailed eagle after a dunking in the river

Eventually the eagle regains its composure and waddles off into the forest with that hands-behind-the-back gait that eagles do so well.

So what was all this about? Judging by its colour, the eagle was a juvenile, and I believe it's not uncommon for the parents to treat their young very severely if they won't leave home. At some point the young change from babies, to resource rivals.

General consensus is that's what we witnessed, mum and dad throwing out the youngster.

I'm glad my parents didn't do the same when I turned 18. (Thinks...actually they did buy me a one-way ticket to England, maybe that's the human equivalent).

Well, so much for a long boring trip. It was long, but certainly not boring.

After three hours we finally sight the Corinna jetty, the Tarkine coast phase of this adventure is over. Now it's the mountains.

We luncheon at Corinna, then drive just a short distance to the Savage River bridge. Here we park and prepare to walk up to Mt Donaldson.

It's only a few kilometres to the foothills of the mountain but it's quite steep. Eventually we reach a reasonable-looking spot and decide to set up camp.

We're still a couple of hundred metres in elevation from the top, but there's not enough room for all of us up there anyway.

There is room for one or two tents though, so Glen decides to continue and solo it on the mountain top for the night.

We search for tent sites on the sodden foot hills. Even the ridges are a half-inch deep in water. Eventually I find a spot that's only a quarter-inch deep, and erect my tent.


Campsite on the side of Mt Donaldson

As night approaches the sky clears and it looks like we're in for a good sunset. Unable to find much in the way of landscape photos though, I elect to photograph the people instead.


Ralph waits for the light...then it arrives. Pieman river in the background.


A photograph of Alistair, photographing Ralph, photographing the sunset.

At dinner time Glen descends from the mountain, well it's one thing to sit alone on top of a mountain and get the great sunset shots most of us missed, it's quite another to miss out on some good food.

As we start eating someone asks for the parmesan cheese. Christoph (our new TT guide and chef) grabs a ziplock plastic bag and hands it to the first person on his right.

There follows a running commentary on the cheese as it's passed around the diners, "Finer than usual", "Doesn't smell like parmesan", "Tastes a bit bland" the comments go.

When it returns to Christoph he looks at the bag, oops, it's milk powder.

Parmesan cheese, milk powder, whatever, it obviously doesn't matter much to the discerning palettes on this trip.

Mon 3 Nov

Dull weather again. No matter we'll walk up the mountain and see what there is to see.

The views are good, but, as the Tiger Trails people are beginning to discover, photographers are just as likely to see something in a single flower at their feet, than the grand vista spread before them.

Everyone else decides to head over to Mametz Ridge, a spot that should afford views over the Donaldson/Pieman junction. I decide to sit on top of the mountain.


Three of the group head off to Mametz Ridge, in the distance

I sit on Mt Donaldson for three hours, the light comes and goes, but never really does the right thing.

It rains several times and in the intervals the sun causes mist to rise from the valleys. It's wonderful to sit here and experience the changes.

Tue 4 Nov

More rain, still, at least it's not cold. We walk back to the vehicle and drive to the Philosophers Falls trail head.

We emerge from the bus into a stiff breeze, now it's cold, bitter cold.

After lunch we walk into Philosophers falls. It's not very far, but steep, overgrown, slippery, and riddled with horizontal scrub.

Still, it's worth it, the falls are quite spectacular.


Loic takes a photo of the falls. He's using my tripod because an essential piece of his fell off on the walk into the falls.


Meanwhile I photograph some of the foliage

It's a bit like a swap-meet at the falls, I loan my tripod to Loic because a piece of his fell off on the walk in. I had also previously loaned my spare cable release to Glen. Glen's not around when my main cable release fails, so I borrow a spare from Simon. Glen returns my cable release and borrows Simon's spare, which then breaks, leaving him without one at all.


A tiny bat wing fern and ancient myrtle tree

Anyway we manage to muddle through, and eventually return to the bus.

We drive into Waratah, past the amazing piles of neatly sawn and split firewood lined up on yards along the road. We buy some beer from the pub, then move a few kilometres out of town to a campsite just off the road.

At this point there's only three photographers left, and we've been in the bush for ten days. Ten days of rain and mud and full-on looking for photographs, and we're getting a bit punch drunk. A beer or two sure improves the spirits though, and we're quite articulate before long.

We pull into a dirt road and set up camp. Simon just happens to have some sawn and split fire wood in the back of his car, we wonder about that, but only briefly, then decide a fire is in order.

After collecting the appropriate kindling and small branches, we light the fire. It's slow to start, so Glen grabs a box lid and begins fanning. The fire instantly comes to life, with flames licking the wood.

Glen stops fanning, and the fire stops burning.

Glen starts fanning the the fire bursts back into life.

Glen stops fanning, and the fire dies again.

It soon becomes apparent that this wood does not want to burn. With all the rain around here I suppose that's not a big surprise.

Anyway we persevere and do eventually get a half-hearted fire going.

We finish off the Waratah-bought beer, then Simon brings some over from his car. When this is gone, someone finds a bottle of red, then Simon pulls out the home-made Port. All-in-all it becomes a very mellow evening.

Later, with everyone else retired to bed, Mayuki (a Japanese tourist that has come along for the last part of the trip) and I sit around the fire.

As we talk I try to dry my socks in front of our pathetic fire.

Mayuki is trying to improve her English, so when, for some reason, I use the term "hopeless cause", she asks me to explain.

I fumble for a while, then spot my still-sodden socks near the fire.

"Trying..to..dry..socks..with..this..fire" I say, slowly, and pausing to ensure that she's following me, "hopeless..cause" I continue, using only the words that I feel are necessary to convey the message.

She laughs and seems to get the idea.

Soon after we also retire, but I'm still wondering if I got the message across. Then, from Mayuki's tent, I hear "Drying socks, hopeless cause, very funny".

Wed 5 Nov

Today we start the last phase of this photo sojourn, Mt Ramsay.

It's only nine kilometres into the campsite near the top of the mountain, two hours max.

We head off, the packs are feeling heavy after nearly two weeks, but then we're into a routine now, this constant walking and camp setting up is becoming "normal". And anyway it's only a couple of hours.

Two hours into the walk we meet Darvis and a couple of Tiger Trails people on their way out.

The track has deteriorated since they were last here, we're still a couple of hours from the camp.

On hearing this Loic decides to leave, he only intended coming in for the day, but there's no point if the walk is that long.

Simon had already gone his own way, so that leaves Glen and myself as the only two photographers left. We wonder about that, and would like to think that it's because we're the only ones with the stamina.

In fact it's more likely that we're the only ones with nothing else to do. Everyone else has commitments.

We slog on through the mud and the track-wide pools.

At about the four-hour point we stop for a break.


We have lunch on the track. We're getting pretty tired by now and just want to get to camp

Christoph thinks he recognises the area as being about half way, not something we want to hear.

Fortunately Christoph is wrong, and within the hour we reach camp.

I immediately erect my tent then doff my sodden boots and socks in favour of my camp slippers.

On seeing my feet I ask Glen to photograph them for posterity.


My feet after the long wet walk into Mt Ramsay. WARNING, not to be viewed while eating. Photo by Glen Turvey

Not a pretty sight I'm sure you'll agree.


My gaiters hanging up to dry

Mayuki on the other hand seems quite dry. We quiz her on this, and she replies "Goretex, Goretex, Goretex" while pointing respectively to her jacket, trousers and boots.

The next order of business is to get a fire going. Unlike the previous evening we soon have a great fire burning, and arrange ourselves and our boots around it.


Boots and people surround the fire in an attempt to get warm

Later we erect some saplings around the fire as drying racks and hang our sock up to dry as well.

The steam wafting from them, while not all that pleasant to inhale, bares testament to the effectiveness of the drying process.

Thu 6 Nov

I spend the majority of the day photographing the Pandani trees that this camp is named after.


A young pandani tree.


A myrtle leaf lying on a bed of moss.


Leaf floating on a tannin-stained pond. The shadow is distorted by the meniscus formed where the water meats the leaf.


Great-looking curly bits an the ends of pandani leaves.


More curly bits. (Published in the Tarkine book)


A metallic skink on a pandani leaf. (Published in the Tarkine book)

The sun eventually comes out and we get our first clear day for the trip.


Camp Ramsay on a sunny day.

Due to some misunderstandings we find that we're low on food and utensils. Nevertheless Christoph manages to feed us well.

We hit the sack for the night. I'm very tired but wake up in the early morning feeling quite cold, for the first time on this walk.

Fri 7 Nov

Everyone comments on the cold night.

Glen and I are pretty much over this walk by now, and we're looking forward to getting home. We do plan to walk up the mountain today but, after breakfast, we get bored and decide that the fire needs a tripod to hang the billy.

Having constructed the tripod we move on to build a BBQ from a huge rock drill found nearby, and some plough disks stashed here by the TT guys.


Jarrah seems perplexed by Rob and Glen's structure

I couldn't be bothered going all the way up the mountain so, after Glen leaves, I ask Jarrah to show me where he found some mushrooms the other day.


Mushroom on the slopes of Mt Ramsay.


A water drop looks like mercury on a bats wing fern.

I spend time photographing them, then drift back to camp, having my first bumble bee encounter as I return.

I've never seen a bumble bee before, and find it to be unbelievably cute, so huge and furry, I just want to reach out and pat it.

Later in the afternoon we sit around the camp. Glen peels an orange and throws it over his shoulder into the bush.

I watch the peel arc upwards, reach apogee, then descend towards the bushes. It squarely strikes a tall cutty grass stem which bends, then straightens, throwing the peel back, to almost hit the thrower.

Headlines in tomorrow's paper "Tarkine rejects orange peel".


The R&G patented BBQ. It doesn't work very well, and is dismantled shortly after this photo is taken

We sit sit around fire until 11:30 then one-by-one, wander off to bed.


Yours truly staring into the fire with the moon behind. Photo by Glen Turvey

Tomorrow we must walk back along that terrible track.

Sat 8 Nov

We walk out today. Glen and I have pretty much had enough, it's been great, but 15 days of walking, camping and photography have worn us down a bit.

Anyway, we're dying to see the results.

As we begin on the trail we skirt the pools. However, it's sunny, and the last walk before changing into dry clothes, so before long we just wade right through.


Glen wades through a track-wide pool

Whether it's our direct approach with the pools (rather that the time-consuming bush bash around them) or the two rest days we've just had I don't know, but we reach the trail head in about three hours. A much shorter time than the trip in.

We rest briefly at the bus, then drive into Waratah for lunch.


Our minibus parked outside the pub. No we didn't have lunch inside, we're over in the park opposite.


Waratah is a very picturesque little town

A few months ago Waratah was featured on the news. Half the town was auctioned, and you could buy a block of land for $600.

At the time Chris and I wondered where the town was, and why the land would be so cheap. Now I know the answer to both questions.

It is a very pleasant-looking place, but there's absolutely nothing here, even the general store has closed.

We're not really due to finish the trip until tomorrow, and Glen's keen to spend another night on Mametz Ridge, near Mt Donaldson, so we drive back to the Savage River bridge and park there.

Glen and Christoph head back up the mountain while Jarrah, Mayuki, and myself, camp on the river bank.

Sun 9 Nov

It's goodbye Tarkine. We settle into the bus for the long drive back to Hobart.

There's no pretence at packing, everything's just thrown into the bus. We'll sort it out when we get home.

We stop again in Queenstown and each buy a plate of wedges (large potato chips), after all the healthy food and activity of the past fortnight, it's great to pig out on some deep-fried junk.

As we leave Queenstown we're passed by about 10 motorbikes, all of the modern, high-powered, variety.

I say something about "temporary Australians", to which someone replies with some statistics. Apparently any Australian male who is riding a motorbike at age 25, and continues to do so, has a 0% chance of reaching the ripe old age of 40.

Having satisfied ourselves that the riders were crazy, we settle back down for the trip.

Ten minutes later we round a bend to find the motorbikes parked on the side of the road, and most of the riders standing around, looking down.

It's clear that something is amiss, and we pull over.

Sure enough, one of them has "stepped off" as the euphemism goes. He lost it on a very innocent-looking corner, cleaned up a white post, and slammed into the bank.

His bike is a mess and he's shaken up, but there's no obvious injuries.

We ring for an ambulance (the satellite phone has sure been useful on this trip) and wait for their arrival.

As we stand around everyone is trying to figure out what happened. I hear snippets of conversion, "simple corner", "no going that fast", "experienced rider", "brand new bike", "cost a fortune".

As we now have an empty trailer we offer to take the broken bike into Hobart, and the injured rider's mates load it on. They have to pull off some of the damaged pieces and, on hearing the sound, the owner tries to sit up, "Don't damage the bike" he says.

We're just thankful he can't see it.

One of the lads is riding with his girlfriend and they must leave as she's already late getting home. "Well surely this is a good enough excuse" I say. "Not really, she's married to a mate of mine, supposed to be at a sewing circle".

How on earth she'll get through the next few years without letting slip something that places her at the accident I've no idea.

The ambulance and police arrive, some of the riders take the police car's flashing lights as a cue to disappear.

With everything sorted we also leave, and plod our way through the mountains in our under-powered bus.

One-by-one the riders pass us, waving as they go. Despite what has just occurred, one guns it, and "monos" up up the hill on his rear wheel. We shake our heads as we watch him disappear around the next blind corner. There goes a "temporary Australian".

At 9PM we finally reach Hobart. As there's only two photographers left, and we're both going to the same address, Christoph kindly adds another hour to his work day and drives us home.

I briefly show him and Mayuki the truck, they leave, Glen goes inside, and I collapse in my Jason recliner.

Oh how I've missed my Jason recliner.

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